National Asia-Pacific Heritage Month

MAY: The term Asian-Pacific American identifies individuals from nearly 30 different countries, each with a unique historical and cultural heritage. Ethnic groups consolidated under the category of "Asian-Pacific American" include groups from Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands. As of February 1999, there were 46,995 Asian Pacific Americans on active duty, including 5,949 commissioned officers and warrant officers, or 2.7 percent of officers in all the services. There were 41,046 enlisted personnel, or 3.6 percent of the enlisted force. And there were 42,765 DoD civilian employees, or 6.2 percent of the DoD civilian work force.

On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. In May 1990, the holiday was expanded further when President George H. W. Bush designated May to be Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Although Chinese immigrants began arriving much earlier, May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1843. From the Gold Rush to the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad, through World Wars, Asian-Pacific Americans have both suffered much from and contributed much to the development of America.

Asian-Pacific Americans By the Numbers:

  • 12.5 million U.S. residents as of July 1, 2001, say they are Asian or Asian in combination with one or more other races. This group comprises 4.4% of the total population. During the preceding 15 months, the number of people who were part of this group increased 3.8 percent, more than triple the growth rate of the entire U.S. population.

  • 8.3 million U.S. foreign-born residents were born in Asia. Asian-born residents comprise one-fourth (25%) of the nation's total foreign-born population.

  • The five largest contributors to the nation's foreign-born population from Asia are China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam and Korea.

  • Close to half (46%) of the nation's foreign-born population from Asia lives in three metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

  • 48% of the foreign-born population from Asia are naturalized U.S. citizens. The corresponding rate for the foreign-born population as a whole is 37%.

  • 88% of Asians and Pacific Islanders are either foreign-born themselves or have at least one foreign-born parent.

  • 284,000 Asian-Americans are military veterans. There were 29,000 veterans who were native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Americans.


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